Thursday, August 11, 2022

2022 Fantasy Football: Heavier expectations drive CeeDee Lamb to speed his WR1 development

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Everyone is expecting a big season from CeeDee Lamb this year. The Cowboys. Fantasy managers. Even Lamb himself.

“I can feel it coming,” Lamb said in an interview with CBS Sports in March. “I’m ready for whatever is coming my way. I’m preparing like no other.”

Lamb could compete to be the No. 1 overall Fantasy receiver this season, and he’s worth drafting in Round 2, as early as No. 15 overall in PPR. I like him right behind Cooper Kupp, Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase and Stefon Diggs.

There’s a lot to love about Lamb this season as he enters his third year in the NFL. With Amari Cooper and Ced Wilson gone in Dallas, there are 165 vacated targets. Newcomers James Washington and Jalen Tolbert should help fill the void, but we don’t know when Michael Gallup will return from his torn ACL. 

Last year, when Gallup (calf) was out or injured for the first eight games of the season, Lamb averaged 8.3 targets per game and had five games with at least 17 PPR points over that span. He should dominate targets from Dak Prescott this season, and he’s poised for a breakout year. 

When Cooper was traded from Dallas to Cleveland, Prescott called Lamb immediately, and the two went to work out in Dallas. Lamb said they worked on “enhancing” their rapport.

“A lot of enhancing,” Lamb said. “We had to go get right and get our timing down and set the foundation.”

The foundation was set in 2021 when Lamb had 79 catches for 1,102 yards and six touchdowns on 120 targets, but he’s capable of more. And anyone who has watched Lamb play can see it.

Former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman said in a radio interview following Dallas’ playoff loss to the 49ers in the wild-card round that Lamb should be treated like an alpha receiver. Aikman was appalled that Lamb had just one catch for 21 yards on five targets in that game. 

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“They mixed in some coverage, but there was a lot of single coverage on CeeDee Lamb,” Aikman said. “The game is not that difficult. If I’ve got a great player at wide receiver, and a corner is playing him single-coverage, throw him the ball. He’s going to win most of the time.”

Lamb is using that game as motivation this year.

“It’s been a sore subject, losing the playoff game,” Lamb said. “It’s a learning process. Why not get me more involved? I’m not complaining about it. Let’s do it.” 

Lamb spent time this offseason working out at XPE Sports in South Florida. He trained at XPE Sports for the NFL Combine prior to entering the draft, and he returns in the offseason to improve his speed and route running.

Tony Villani, who runs XPE Sports, said Lamb could become one of the best receivers in the NFL. Villani has worked with Cris Carter, Randy Moss and Anquan Boldin, among other receivers, in his career.

“Trying to get him crisper in his routes, which sounds crazy,” Villani said of Lamb. “But let’s get him to run the top of his routes like the slowest wide receivers in the NFL to have the most catches. What I mean by that, let’s teach him the route-running secrets of Larry Fitzgerald, Cris Carter, Anquan Boldin. None of those guys have CeeDee’s athletic ability. Let CeeDee keep his shimmy, shimmy, shakes. But when he gets to the top of his routes, let’s be like the best route runners in NFL history. He understands it.”

Lamb will miss Cooper as his running mate this season, and Lamb called him “big bro forever.” He said Cooper “made it easy on me and helped me with route running and seeing things from a different perspective.” Lamb said, “it sucks to have him gone, but I can’t dwell on it.”

But with Cooper gone, the door is open for Lamb to be the No. 1 receiver for Prescott and the Cowboys. He can now perform and see the targets like a true No. 1 receiver in the NFL. And he can compete to be the No. 1 overall Fantasy receiver this year.

This is going to be a big season for Lamb. He’s ready. And Fantasy managers should be ready to draft him early in Round 2 as one of the best breakout candidates in 2022.

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